Dancing With Noah

Just messing around, getting triple doubles

Tag Archives: anthony davis

Pacing Against History, the Quarter Turn

Last season I had a monthly post to look at how players were pacing against random historical statistical achievements and now that we’re now roughly a quarter of the way into the NBA season, I’m revisiting the concept. It’s no longer the “young” NBA season, but we’ve escaped the doldrums of “small sample-size theater” and can look at trends as markers of potential sustainability like Russell Westbrook preposterously averaging a triple double. The audacity! Let’s dive in and embrace the stats instead of telling the kids to get off our lawn while we spit shine our shrines to Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan because goddamn it, yesterday wasn’t better than today and today isn’t better than yesterday. New frontiers await, let’s go!

Special thanks to Basketball-Reference for ALL stats

Special thanks to Basketball-Reference for ALL stats

  1. You want efficiency, here’s your damn efficiency: Kevin Durant scoring 27ppg on 17 or less FGA/gm. Since 1946-47, Basketball-Reference (BBR) tells us the only player with comparable volume and efficiency was Charles Barkley in 1987-88 when he averaged 28.3-points on 16 FGA/gm. Everyone said it would be easier in for KD in Golden State and so far it’s been historically easy.
  2. For just the 3rd time in league history, at least 10 players are averaging 25 or more points/game. Last happened in 2005-06 after a rule change. Additionally, a whopping 28 players are averaging 20 points or higher.
  3. BBR tracks rebound percentage beginning in the 1970-71 season when young Tom Boerwinkle led the league with 22.6%. Between 1971 and 2016, only four players achieved a 24% or higher rebounding rate. In 2016-17, three players, including Dwight Howard at a career-high 24.2%, are 24% or better – Andre Drummond and Hassan Whiteside are the other two. Dennis Rodman appears on this list seven times and holds six of the top-7 rates.
  4. Seems like everyone has strong opinions these days on how many threes big men should or shouldn’t be shooting. I may or may not be one of these people, but it doesn’t change the fact that players listed at 6’11” or taller are taking and making more threes than ever before. Prior to 2016-17, big guys had hit 1.5 or more threes/game 18 different times and it been accomplished by just seven players including the king of big man threes, Dirk Nowitzki who did it five times. But the throne is being challenged in 16-17 as six bigs are making at least 1.5 3s/game including Channing Frye who, if he keeps up his current pace, will tie Dirk for most appearances on the list. Also worth noting is that Frye’s on pace to set big man records for most threes made and highest 3pt-percentage.
  5. With advanced stats like individual defensive-rating, defensive plus-minus, and opponent shooting percentage, we have more and deeper ways to measure defensive impact. This is good, but there’s still some traditional measures that help identify the havoc players are wreaking on that end of the floor and steals and blocks do a decent job. Since 1973-74 when steals and blocks started being tracked, just two players (David Robinson once and Hakeem Olajuwon four times) have accomplished full-season averages of 2-plus steals and 2-plus blocks. A quarter of the way into 16-17 and the dashing young Grecian prince Giannis Antetokounmpo is making a bid to join these Hall-of-Fame legends with his averages of 2.2 in both categories. Fellow basketball savant Anthony Davis isn’t far behind at 2.7-blocks and 1.8-steals. Do these youngsters dare to jointly pull off a feat not seen since 1992? Dare they may!
  6. In all our years, we’ve only seen the greatest of the great reach the all-around statistical lines so indicative of great versatility as a 22-point, 8-rebound, 6-assist per-game average. These are players like Oscar Robertson (5x), Wilt Chamberlain (2x), John Havlicek (2x), Larry Bird (6x), Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett, and Lebron James. But legends must make room for new jacks and those include Russell Westbrook (31-10-11) and the aforementioned Giannis (22-8-6). Russ is the headliner, but at 22, Giannis and Oscar (in 1960-61) are the youngest ever to stack these stats.
  7. From the world of the weird, since the advent of this great game only a single player has averaged at least 25-points while making 8-or-less field goals/game. That lightning rod of making a lot out of a little is James Harden who reached the over-25/under-8 marker thrice is being threatened with new company this season as argyle-sock-puppet-loving Jimmy Butler throws his hat into the ring of mondo-efficiency with 25.6-points on just 7.8-field goals/game.
  8. Joel Embiid doesn’t currently qualify for league leaders due to his lack of minutes which is a result of nightly restrictions and not playing back-to-backs, but for rookies, he’s embarking on some strange records:
    1. Usage rate: He’s currently at 37.6% which would easily eclipse Ben Gordon’s record of 30.4% back in 2004-05. NBA usage rates are tracked back to 1977-78.
    2. Turnovers: No player has ever averaged as many turnovers (3.8) while appearing in as few minutes (under 24). As his playing time and frequency level out, one would expect there to be a balancing out, but until it happens, he’ll remain in lonely, rare company.
    3. Three-point shooting: For rookies who have attempted at least 30 threes in the first 13 games of their debut season, Embiid ranks 4th overall in accuracy at 51% (18-35) behind well-known shooters Brent Barry, Jason Terry, and Dana Barros.
    4. Blocks & Threes: With all these unicorns like Embiid, Giannis, and Porzingis galloping around NBA cities, new frontiers are being explored with frequency. Since 1983-84, only one other player (not limited to rookies) has as many blocks (29) and threes (18) made through his team’s first 13 games and that’s Wilson Chandler in 2010-11.
  9. 28-points-10-rebounds-1.5 3s had never been reached before this season and now we’ve got two players breaking on through to the other side (interestingly enough, a montage of Westbrook drives, dives, and boards could easily be set to The Doors tune) of NBA statistics: Westbrook (31-10-1.8) and DeMarcus Cousins (29-10-1.7). There’s a lot of similarity in how these guys play so while positionally (not a word, but we’ll go with it) and physically they couldn’t be much more dissimilar, they’re both emotionally volatile players fueled by something deep in their guts and chest cavities. They’re wrecking balls with immense responsibilities riding on their shoulders and their carnage is leaving bulk stats and fragile records in their wakes from Sacramento to Oklahoma City.
  10. A usage rate over 30% will typically land a player in the top-10 in the league in overall usage. But 30% usage and under two turnovers/game? That’s rare. So rare that prior to this season, it’s been accomplished just three times: by Kobe Bryant last year (more a result of his bullish shot jacking), LaMarcus Aldridge in 14-15 (30.2, 1.7), and Dirk in 08-09 (30.3, 1.9). Joining this rare combination of usage and efficiency are Kawhi Leonard (30.6, 1.9) and Zach Randolph (30.9, 1.3). Though I haven’t seen as much Z-Bo as I would like, I’m assuming there’s a lot of catching and shooting with little dribbling and not much playmaking. Kawhi, by contrast, has more assists/game than anyone else on this list.
  11. Blocking shots and scoring the basketball at an elite level are the domains of Kareem, Hakeem, the Admiral and Pat Ewing, right? I mean those are the first names that come to mind when I think of that joint skillset, but prior to this season, only a single player had ever average 30-points and greater than 2.5-blocks for an entire season. Can you guess who it is? Think, think, guess, guess, don’t skip ahead. This year, Anthony Davis (31.5, 2.7) is flirting with joining Buffalo Brave great Bob McAdoo (30.6, 3.3) in this exclusive club of tall, lean basketball pros.
  12. After tonight, the Brow of unibrow fame is already up to six 35-point, 15-rebound games. Since 1983-84, the most a player has had in a single season was Charles Barkley with 12 in 87-88. We know the Brow’s susceptible to missing games to aches, pains, strains, sprains and the like, but this is a fun one to watch.
  13. 50-40-90 club but with 48-38-88 thresholds so we can see who’s sniffing around. 20 games into the season and we’ve got four candidates: Stephen Curry (49-42-92), Patty Mills (51-45-96), Terrence Ross (50-44-94), and J.J. Redick (49-46-90). Only once since we’ve been threes came into the game have we seen more than one player reach this dead-eye shooting summit: 2007-08 when Jose Calderon and Steve Nash landed there together.

We’re a quarter of the way in, but this has the making of a legendary season for statistical achievements, driven by those former three Thunders rolling roughshod through the league in their own tradition-defying ways. Usage rates at the individual level are rising in line with individual scoring and the range expansion of big men means more of the court is open to new batches of players which means the entire ecosystem of stats is undergoing historical change. This is fun, it’s unseen, let’s get our sunscreen (I’ll make sure your neck is covered) and venture off into worlds unknown with Boogie and Russ and the Brow. Godspeed!

Every time you go (away), you take a piece of the team with you

Over the past three seasons, reigning back-to-back league MVP Stephen Curry averaged 79 games-per-season and yet his ankles remain a delicate arc of his historical narrative. From the customized high-ankle-support Under Armour shoes to his lean build to his physical breakdown in the 2016 playoffs, Curry’s health seems to be a talking point that always lingers kind of like the vinegary sweat smell from my buddy G’s high school practice jersey. It’s a funk that still makes Golden State fans and league office employees cringe when Steph hits the deck.

Connected to Curry’s health is the direct correlation to the Warriors’ collective success. Health isn’t an absolute, but from the start of the 2014-15 season to Curry slipping on a wet spot against the Rockets in the opening round of the 2016 playoffs, the Warriors won 156 of 185 games (84%). After Curry’s injury, they went 15-9 (63%).

Steph’s health, among so many other variables, is a critical piece of his team’s success. This isn’t a relationship unique to Golden State or Steph, but something that pervades any team sport, particularly those where each team only fields five players at a time. With that in mind, I looked at missed games over the previous three seasons in some attempt to understand who’s getting hurt, how much time they’re missing, and understand that every time they go away, what part of the team are they taking with them – be it potential or points-per-game or whatever.

Like many NBA fan, I’m intrigued by Anthony Davis’s young career. The most unique talents suffer under the greatest microscopes and so it is that we needle away at Davis’s four-year career. Sticking with the three-year baseline I established, Davis has missed 50 games with 15-16 being his most injurious at 21 games missed. But so what? What do the Pelicans lose when Davis is gone?

Depending on how you look at it, they miss a lot. By traditional measures, Davis takes with him 23-points and 10-rebounds, 2.5 blocks and nearly 1.5 steals while shooting 51% from the field and 78% from the line on nearly 8 attempts-per-game. (Or, he takes with him 50-points, 16-rebounds, and 7-steals; the line he audaciously produced in the 16-17 season opener.) But how does that impact the team? There’s no single measure to identify wins lost, but there are a handful of win-share or replacement-level stats that can be inverted into a form of loss-share.

There’s WORP/WARP which is Wins Over/Above Replacement Player that is an extension of VORP (Value over replacement player). Then there’s team record with and without a player which is a simplistic, raw way to look at impact which I’ve boiled down a single lost wins number based on variance in win-percentage in games the player played versus games he missed (example: in 2014-15, OKC won 66.7% of the 27 games in which Kevin Durant appeared. They won 49.1% in the 55 games he missed. Apply the 66.7% to the 55 games he missed and you land at ~37 wins. Subtract from that 37 the 27 wins OKC had without him and the lost wins comes out to 9.67.) And finally, there’s ESPN’s RPM (Real plus-minus) model which offers up a metric simply titled RPM Wins which estimates the “number of wins each player has contributed to his team’s total for the season” and includes RPM and a number of possessions played.

For each of the above stats (WORP, Raw Won-Loss, and RPM Wins), I’ve created a negative metric – WORP becomes WORP missed, Raw Won-Loss becomes Raw Wins Lost, and RPM Wins becomes RPM Losses. None of these should be viewed as standalone metrics, but rather as directional insights to get a sense of what’s being lost when a player sits.

If we stick with Davis, we see a fairly consistent measure across the three metrics. For the 15-16 season where he missed 21 games, his WORP landed at 2.1, Wins Lost was 2.3, and RPM losses was 2.4. While there are a silly number of variables that play into the actual on-court results (like Jrue Holiday missing 17 games and sitting back-to-backs while playing limited minutes or Ryan Anderson missing 16 games, Alvin Gentry as new coach, and on and on), by current available measures, the loss of Davis, while no doubt a disruption to continuity and scheme, likely cost New Orleans 2-3 wins.

If we think about how the weight of performance can sway these metrics, let’s compare Davis’s most recent three seasons:

ant-davis

Though Davis missed his most games in 15-16, the performance-based measures of RPM Losses and WORP Missed indicate a more significant impact in 14-15.

Davis is an instructive case for this exercise. He’s consistent both in terms of his on-court outputs and won/loss measures. To-date you can pencil him in for a PER over 25 and somewhere between 15-20 missed games while costing his team 2-4 wins through his absences. And given that he suffered a mild ankle sprain in the pre-season, it’s fair to assume that the trend will continue to some degree.

Conversely, there are players who have missed huge chunks of games that make this exercise completely futile or reveal the weaknesses in these measures. Paul George is the outlier of outliers, a player whose games played have wildly swung in both directions:

pg13

For players who miss a handful of games in a season, the resulting impacts are minimized as to barely register by any of the loss-based measures (see PG’s 13-14 and 15-16). Conversely, George’s 14-15 where he missed 76 games recovering from his gruesome broken leg in the Olympic trials, then came back and helped lead the Pacers to a 5-1 (83.3%) record in the six games he appeared, the value of the Wins Lost, while possibly accurate, is grossly skewed. Indiana was 33-43 (43.4%) in 76 George-less games so when applying PG’s 83.3% win rate to the 76 missed games, the model shows the Pacers missing out on 30 wins which means they would’ve gone 63-19. Meanwhile, his overall 6-game output is so small that his overall impact barely register on RPM or WORP.

To add additional context to George, his 30.33 wins lost is laughably higher than anyone else in this data set over the previous three seasons:

players-and-games

The data does help to illustrate some of my own misperceptions and nowhere is that clearer than comparing Davis to DeMarcus Cousins. The biggest knock against Davis to-date has been his inability to stay on the court. For Cousins, it’s his volatility, his lack of emotional maturity which reveals its ugly head in his missed games. Per Sportrac, Cousins has been suspended six games over the past three seasons. That doesn’t account for all 51 he’s missed in that time – which is one more than Davis – but it’s a significant number.

boogie-brow

While Davis is the superior player by nearly any measure, particularly any efficiency measure, the overall impact of Cousins’ missed games is on par with or exceeds Davis. Again, this isn’t to say Cousins is a better player as there are countless variables. It could entirely be that New Orleans has had superior coaching, an easier schedule, or are better equipped to maintain some degree of continuity in Davis’s absence. By most available measures though, Cousins is just as likely to miss games as Davis and those absences adversely impact his team more so than Davis’s with New Orleans. This isn’t necessarily how I’ve thought about both players and their impacts or reputations.

One ugly trend that stood out like a pus-oozing sore on a replacement player’s naked big toe was the Pelicans’ magnetism to injury. Five of their top players over the past three seasons have each missed 50 games or more which translates into a rough average of nearly 27 games missed per-player-per-season. The culprits have been Holiday (35 games/season, currently out indefinitely as his wife undergoes brain surgery), Anderson (32 games/season, gone to the Rockets), Eric Gordon (25 games/season, gone to Rockets), Tyreke Evans (23 games/season, out until maybe sometime in December and apparently had blood clotting in his calf), and of course Davis. The volume, consistency, and unpredictability (particularly Holiday) make this team a wild card in terms of predictability. And if the Pelicans’ first three games of the season were an indication, the non-injured supporting cast around Davis resembles a mix of flunkies and rotation players with Lance Stephenson vying with Tim Frazier as Robin to the Brow’s Batman. As I look over these numbers, it’s hard to fathom how they even made the playoffs in 14-15, though the semi-obvious answer is Davis’s historical season as he recorded a PER north of 30 for just the 18th time in league history.

pels

Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe and Charlotte’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist stood out for their respective impacts and consistency. For players I bucketed as “starters,” they finished 1st (MKG) and 5th (Bledsoe) in total games missed over the past three seasons. MKG missed 75 games last season with a shoulder injury, but it wasn’t exactly a new trend as he missed 27 and 20 games the previous two seasons. For Bledsoe, he’s had multiple meniscus injuries and missed 39 in 13-14 and 51 last season.

Both players accompany those costly missed game counts with significant impacts in the win/loss measures. MKG with his average-to-below-average stats doesn’t fare well in WORP measures (0.3, 0.7, 0), but looks tremendous in Raw Lost wins (3.3, 7.3, and 10.6 – though the last one falls in the Paul George 14-15 bucket given he only played 7 games). Additionally, MKG’s impact almost falls in the historic Shane Battier corollary of intangibles as articulated by coach Steve Clifford: “Last year, obviously, we played well without him. The first two years that we were here, literally when he played, we played well, and when he didn’t, we couldn’t win. He impacts winning in so many ways.”

mkg

Bledsoe’s won/loss impact is well-represented across any of the three measures I’m using:

major-blood

With Bledsoe on the floor, Phoenix is winning roughly 5-8 more games each season. Like New Orleans, the Suns have experienced maddening volatility over the past few seasons. In-season coaching changes, injuries, and locker room deterioration catalyzed by the Suns trading away one of the Morris twins destabilized the hell out of this team. Amidst all that disarray, Bledsoe, aka Baby LeBron, missing 91 games was the icing on the pain cake. As the Suns best player, he has the appearance of being the single most important player to the Suns’ success. What happened to the days of Phoenix’s training squad stitching together the careers of Steve Nash and Grant Hill? Where for art thou Eric Bledsoe’s health?  

Injuries are the scourge of sports. They cost teams and cable networks money, muddy the waters of historical context, force us to question the outcomes of competitive contests; they’re annoying, they’re painful, heartbreaking dings, pulls, tears, and breaks that act as a kick to the groin or a slap upside the head. Injuries suck. And yet, our bodies are fallible and fragile; we live in the suck. And every game, every minute missed comes with some cost. Sleep well tonight friends, because we never know when our favorite player might step on a rake and have the handle swing up and smack him in the face and nose leaving them concussed with a broken nose and an uncomfortable seat at the end of the bench in street clothes.

 

81% of Anthony Davis looks like this

After 2014-15, Anthony Davis’s pro hoop trajectory climbed into rare company. His traditional big man stats (points, rebounds, blocks) gained him admittance into a stratosphere known to few at the pro level: +24ppg, +10rpg, +2.5bpg. Only Shaquille O’Neal accomplished the same as a 21-year-old. For players 25 or younger, only Shaq, David Robinson, and Bob McAdoo pulled it off. If we expand the list to remove any age constraints, the list is still less than 30 total seasons and just eight players in league history. Anthony Davis won’t turn 23 until March of 2016 and yet, as some critics take aim at Michael Jordan’s career, I too have a prickle of concern in my gut about the durability of young Mr. Davis.

It’s not hyperbolic exaggeration to say Davis’s early career has the markings of an inevitable first-ballot Hall of Famer. His first three seasons have been that good. But somewhere in that mixing pot of historical greatness is the mildly concerning truth that Davis has yet to exceed 70 games in a single season. He’s never encountered the catastrophic injuries that wracked Greg Oden or Joel Embiid. Rather, he’s been sidelined by one little injury after another.

If we consider the players in the 24/10/2.5 club as some sort of bright and shiny baseline to compare against Davis from a purely durability view, we get the following breakout across each player’s first three seasons:

Anthony Davis and shiny baselines - stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com

Anthony Davis and shiny baselines – stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com

 

It is certainly isn’t an apples to apples comparison, particularly since primary data linking the players (24/10/2.5) occurred for most guys at a different point in their careers. The other difference is player age though there’s not much we can do about that. Of the eight players on the list, David Robinson (26) was the oldest after three years while Davis (21) is the youngest. And given Davis’s lithe frame (particularly as a 19-year-old rookie), it’s fair to wonder if age and physical maturation have factored into his semi-fragility.

Olajuwon (knee injury in 1986) and Robinson (thumb surgery in 1992) both had 68-game seasons in their first three years, but Hakeem appeared in all 82 his first year while the Admiral hadn’t missed a game in nearly three full seasons. Ewing only appeared in 50 games as a rookie, then 63 his second season before finally finding health (82 games) via a significant reduction in minutes – less than four minutes played per game in his third season. Sticking with Ewing, the bulk of his 32 games missed as a rookie were the result of a shutdown in March after he re-aggravated a season-long knee injury.

As we look at Davis’s spate of missed games over his first three seasons, we’ll see the shutdown factor slightly skew his number of games played as well. Over his first two years in the league, Davis was shut down with three games to go as a rookie due to a sprained MCL and bone bruise, then five more as in year two due to back spasms. Those eight games combine for 17% of the total missed games in his career – small volume, but it’s fair to wonder whether he may have played through injury had the playoffs been a possibility.

It shouldn’t come as a big surprise, but New Orleans is a significantly better team with Davis on the court. For his career, when Davis plays, the Pelicans’ winning percentage climbs nearly 14% — from ~32% to ~46%. While the team’s winning percentage has grown each season he’s been on the team (with or without Davis), the disparity between with and without Davis has never been greater than it was in 2014-15 when their winning percentage climbed 14.5% when Davis played. This shouldn’t shock anyone, but rather continue to highlight how critical a healthy Davis is to any New Orleans success.

10-26-15 - with or without anthony

Beyond just winning and losing, there’s the impact of continuity. How well did the Pelicans play in games following a Davis injury? Looking at his first two seasons, the games immediately following his injuries were miserable. There’s a lot of noise when drawing these attribution statements such as opponents, New Orleans personnel, and other injuries, but at its base level, the message is clear that New Orleans repeatedly struggled to re-integrate Davis into their schemes following injuries in years one and two:

  • 2012-13 (rookie year): Davis missed 11 straight games from 11/20 – 12/8 and upon return, the team struggled losing 11 of 13 games (won 15% of games)
  • 2012-13: Davis missed back-to-back games and upon his return, the team dropped seven of eight (13%)
  • 2013-14: Davis missed seven straight and when he came back they lost 12 of 16 (25%)

Aside from being small sample sizes, the stretches above are directional indicators that New Orleans took time to rediscover their pre-Davis-injury winning rate. In each of those three stretches the team performed worse off than even without Davis in the lineup.

Year three revealed a different trend that should alleviate some of the uncertainty around the direction of the Pelicans:

  • 2014-15: Davis misses three straight games and upon return, the Pelicans win four of five (80%)
  • 2014-15: Davis misses five straight games, but when he returns the team wins five of seven (71%)

As the team and Davis have both evolved, New Orleans has improved; learning to live better without their star while simultaneously establishing a system stable enough to provide some level of continuity with or without him. Replacing former coach Monty Williams with veteran Alvin Gentry isn’t likely to disrupt too much as off-season changes left the team about as intact as any other in the league.

(As an aside, for all the teeth gnashing about how basketball is a team game, pro basketball with its radiant stars is hugely dependent on their in-game availability and ability to excel. Players like Davis that impact both offensively and defensively are capable of reshaping history singlehandedly.)

Finally, there are types of injuries. Davis hasn’t sustained a trademark injury like Steph Curry’s ankles, Derrick Rose’s knees or Steve Nash’s back. Since his rookie season, his injuries stretched from head to toe ranging from a concussion to a sprained toe. He’s sprained both shoulders, fractured his fifth metacarpal, experienced back spasms, sprained his MCL among various other dings picked up in nightly battle sessions. As someone without a background in sports health or injuries, it’s difficult for me to say if it’s a good or bad thing that Davis’s injuries are completely random instead of identifiable. I don’t know if it matters that his label is injury prone or just plagued with a bit of bad luck.

It doesn’t take intellectual curiosity to realize less Anthony Davis is bad for the Pelicans. But despite the obviousness of it, Davis has still missed 18, 15, and 14 games in each of his first three seasons as a pro basketball player and his team suffers mightily without him. The injuries are just random and fluky enough to think luck has played a role, but just recurrent enough to make me, you, and Dell Demps wonder. Winning 42% of their games without him is strong year-over-year improvement, but with Davis out for any extended period of time Pelican playoff dreams are crushed like a bag of Doritos in the mitts of Omer Asik. But maybe it’s all nothing more than a human impulse to search for the little blemish in perceived perfection. On the eve of a new season where someone somewhere is ready and willing to anoint Davis the next great thing, let’s bow our heads and clasp our hands and cry out to the Pagan gods of Walton and Ming that we’re dealing with another Ewing and not a Ralph Sampson.

anthony

Sunday to Monday Thoughts on Basketball #2

Week number two of the Sunday to Monday notes and the NCAA marches through its first week of mediocre, but riveting basketball. The NBA knows no breaks, unless you’re suffering through the spring swoons of Indiana (7-6 in March) and Miami (6-7). So while the “amateur” darlings (Jabari, Wiggins, Smart, McDermott) take March Madness dives, the NBA’s not ready to go fishing just yet.

  • The triple double was immortalized by Magic or Oscar or maybe Ice Cube. LeBron’s the youngest to triple double, Karl Malone’s the oldest. Wilt had triple doubles in nine straight games once and is the only player to ever get a triple double with at least 20 of each category – 22 points, 25 rebounds, 21 assists. The Big O averaged a triple double for an entire season and had 41 triple doubles in the same year. Grant Hill finished his career with 29 triple doubles, 10th most all time. For all the triple doubles the league has seen (a little over 34/season for the past 20+ years), Isaiah Thomas, the 5’9” Tacoma-born dynamo and starting PG for the Kings, became the shortest man in league history to record one on March 18th when he went for 24 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists against the Wizards. Just another example that this young man, the last pick of the 2011 draft, is here to stay.
  • Following up on Pearl Washington after last week’s Requiem for a League on the Big East is a story about the former Syracuse great written in-time (1990) when Pearl was an overweight point guard in the CBA. Hat tip to my buddy Bug for the link there which tells us that basically Pearl was prone to weight-gain and couldn’t find a good fit in his three-year NBA career.
  • Jason Collins has now appeared in 11 games for the Nets so he’s not qualifying for any rate stats this season and that’s probably a good thing, because his area of excellence is committing fouls. Over this short sample size, he’s prolifically fouling people: 8.0 fouls/36-min. That’s a foul about every 4:30 and would have him fouling out in about 27-minutes, but we don’t have to worry about that going down since no one in their right or wrong mind would consider keeping him on the court that long. That 8 fouls/36 is impressive, but it pales in comparison to 6’7”, weight unknown, Danny Fortson of Sonics and Warriors infamy/fame (depending on who you ask). It’s entirely likely that Fortson’s tracking Collins’s fouling frequency and laughing while double fisting club sandwiches and sliders. In his heyday, Fortson had a four-year stretch where he committed 8.5, 9.1, 9.9, and 8.7 fouls/36-min. Step up your game, Collins.
  • Al Jefferson’s been a viceroy of the post recently. His ppg is up nearly 20% since the All-Star break and it’s shown up in the win column as the Bobcats have won 65% of their post-AS break games compared to 43% before the break. To dig deeper into Charlotte’s dependency on the big man from Mississippi, he averages 25.3ppg with a 32.8% usage rate and a 95 DRtg in wins against 17.8ppg with 27% usage rate and 107 DRtg in losses. In short, as Al goes, the Bobcats go. SI’s Lee Jenkins profiled Big Al in the latest Sports Illustrated and as has become commonplace, Jenkins did a masterful job. But amid all this rich Jefferson content, one anecdote stood out:

Jefferson was the Celtics teenager who asked Gary Payton why Lakers banners hung in the Clippers’ arena — “You really don’t know they play in the same place!” Payton howled.

  • Anthony Davis’s torrid play continues to amaze much more than his non-conformist unibrow. Elias Sports Bureau tells us that he’s just the third player to average over 32 and 13 in an eight-game span since 1994-95. The other two are Kevin Love and Shaq. But that’s not enough. He’s the youngest player in league history to average at least 21, 10 and 2.5 blocks and in the spirit of the NCAA Tournament, Davis would be a junior this year:

Anthony Davis

Davis’s true shooting is ~59% which places him just outside of the league’s top-20. I wanted to compare his shooting range to other players on that 21-10-2.5 list, but the only comparable player whose shooting stats were available on BBR was Tim Duncan. I looked at Duncan’s career distance shooting and where Duncan, with all his touch, has shot ~83% of his FGAs since 2000-01 between 0-16 feet, just 15% have come beyond that range – with a significant uptick in his later years. Davis, in his 2nd year in the league, is shooting ~20% of his shots from 16-ft or deeper, but is shooting ~38% this season compared to Duncan’s career mark of ~41%. In addition to his around the rim savvy, Davis has a range that even in this era of stretch fours is enviable. To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson … we greet you at the beginning of a great career …..

  • I’m highly partial to geographic loyalties. I’m from Iowa and live in Seattle and sometimes fail to keep my biases out of my fandom and writing. Sometimes though, the truth is impossible to ignore and I’m wondering if that’s what is happening with Harrison Barnes. The 6’8” swingman has a body that was sculpted to play basketball. He’s a graduate of Ames High School in Ames, Iowa and was teammates with Creighton’s Doug McDermott. His post-high school hype was unfair and he fell below pre-season All-American expectations as a freshman. It’s fair to say Barnes has been falling below expectations ever since and whether or not that’s his fault or just poor scouting is another topic. But we’re not 148 games into Barnes’s pro career and my I can’t figure out if I’m looking at a plateau or a slight decline. I’m uncertain what’s happening to be honest. We expect to see improvement from our second-year players, but Barnes is backsliding. His March splits have descended into an East Bay abyss and it’s gotten to the point the passionate Warriors fans on Twitter would swap him for another dance with Anthony Randolph …. Ok, it’s not that bad, but what’s up, Barnes? (Before tossing him limb by limb into a pack of snarling wolves, let’s remember Barnes is just 21 and would be a senior at UNC this year.)

Blame Harrison, blame the scouts, blame yourself … just exercise your right to blame.

  • While we’re talking about Ames, former Iowa State Cyclone, Royce White, made his first and second appearances for the Kings this week. They were rather uneventful from a statistical point of view, but the act of appearing is more than a lot of folks thought we’d see. On 3/18, Sacramento signed him to a second 10-day contract. The league allows teams to sign the same player to a pair of 10-day contracts and after that, they have to sign him for the rest of the season if they want to keep him. White’s deal wraps up on Friday, March 28th and the Kings play at home on Wednesday, then in Oklahoma City on Friday. If I was a gambling man, I’d guess they don’t extend him the remainder of the season based on the novelty minutes he’s been afforded so far. Hopefully, I’m wrong.

  • The Spurs have now won 13 straight and while cultural debates still rage around asinine statements like, “If you don’t like the Spurs, you don’t basketball,” the most discussed Spurs topic is Pop’s behavior during in-game interviews. (Worth noting that by keeping the focus on himself, Pop keeps the emphasis off his players which is probably part of some grand strategy that he devised over bottles from his own winery.) However you feel about this group from San Antonio, just know that in some form, it’s likely that their far-reaching tentacles have tickled or touched your own squad as evidenced by the Illuminati-like reaches of Spurs personnel throughout the league. If Malcolm Gladwell really wants to blow my mind, tell me how the fuck the Spurs have become the most successful franchise in American sports and give me more than Tim Duncan + Popovich = greatness. This week’s games include Philly (see more below), Denver, @ Denver, and New Orleans. Circle that game in Denver on Friday night. Home and aways often end in splits – I have no data to back up that statement.
  • Speaking of the Spurs reach, Philly’s coach Brett Brown is a Popovich acolyte, but apparently he didn’t pack up success when he left the Lone Star state. Philly’s now lost 24 games in a row. They won’t end up with the worst record in league history and while there have been lesser teams, something stinks about GM Sam Hinkie’s master planning. I’m excited about their future, but it feels like they’re making a deal with the devil to get there – perhaps this is just me moralizing on ugliness of scraping rock bottom to reach the top. Or maybe it’s just me directing my dislike of Daryl Morey on Hinkie. Whatever the case, losing 24 games in a row sucks and instead of pointing fingers at Brown and Philly’s semi-pro team, any criticisms need to be send to the Philly front office, C/O: Sam Hinkie.
    • More random tidbits from intelligent people:

DeAndre Kane is the 24-year-old Mr. Do it All for the Iowa State Cyclones. He also happens to be older than 5-year pro James Harden:

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